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Broadband survey reveals negative financial impact

A recent survey of Pierce County internet users left the members of the Ellsworth chamber’s industrial council in shock, to say the least.

When the data was studied in detail, it revealed the lack of effective high speed internet costs everyone in the county, even if residents are now enjoying high speed service where they live. It showed $5.1 million in lost revenue/tax evaluation or 10.3 percent of property tax bills.

The committee evaluating the numbers said the area is losing .8 percent in real estate value, not to mention the loss of potential business and industrial growth in the area.

“People think twice before deciding to live or move their business here,” members said. Those things are very important to people, especially in these high-speed times.

In some cases, people in the county have reported having to sell their property for considerably less because high speed internet was not available. One such person said, “I have done work in Ghana, Africa, and they have better internet connection than we do here in Pierce County.”

One of the primary objectives of the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Industrial Council committee, under the leadership of Sharon Seibel of J&S Machine and several community leaders, was to find a way to develop consistent high speed broad band internet service for all of the county.

To this end, the council commissioned a survey of internet users to find out just where less than acceptable service really exists.

Surveys were sent to all residents of the county and the response rate was 13 percent, which gives the study a two percent plus/minus error factor. But more importantly, the survey, which was tabulated by UW-River Falls, revealed many areas of unsatisfactory service. These areas were pinpointed on a map of the county.

So, what can be done about it?

The industrial council’s next step is to contact internet providers and share the collected data with them in hopes one of them can come up with a cost-effective solution. This would position the county to compete with area counties and the metro loop.

As one of the committee members said, “Living in the country is great, but living with slow or unreliable internet service is not.”

The council will keep the public informed of their progress as the process moves forward.